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Opera

Too worthy? Peter Sellars’s staging of John Adams’s ‘Gospel’

ENO’s Gospel According to the Other Mary: great music weighed down by a worthy staging

Opera

Terrorism; East-West diplomacy; nuclear war: John Adams’s operas have poured music into the faultlines of 21st-century global politics, and the tremors have been significant. Simply staging The Death of Klinghoffer recently was enough to see the Met picketed on charges… Read more

Franco Fagioli: a controversial Idamante in ‘Idomeneo’ at the Royal Opera House

Royal Opera’s Idomeneo: get seats but make sure they’re facing away from the stage

Opera

Mozart’s first great opera, Idomeneo, is not often performed, and perhaps it’s better that way. It should be seen as a festival work, celebrating qualities that we rarely reflect on, but are of the utmost importance. In his fine essay… Read more

Mariinsky’s musical director Valery Gergiev Photo: V.Baranovsky

Mariinsky’s Boris Godunov - a revelation

Opera

Anyone who thinks opera singers and orchestral players are overworked should spare a thought for the Mariinsky Opera on its trek round England and Wales this week. After Prokofiev’s Betrothal in a Monastery in Cardiff on Sunday, the whole caravan… Read more

Anna Netrebko as Lady in Verdi’s ‘Macbeth’, Metropolitan Opera

Met Opera Live's Macbeth: Netrebko's singing stirred almost as much as her décolletage

Opera

This season of live Met relays got off to a most impressive start, with an electrifying account of Verdi’s tenth opera and first really great, though uneven piece, Macbetto (as I think it should be called; that’s what the central… Read more

Miles (Thomas Delgado-Little) and Flora (Louise Moseley) in Glyndebourne's creepy Turn of the Screw. © Tristram Kenton

Glyndebourne’s Turn of the Screw: horrors of the most innocent and creepy kind

Opera

We all know that ‘They fuck you up your mum and dad’, but nowhere is this more reliably (and violently) true than in the opera house. If you have the misfortune to be born into an operatic family you can… Read more

Hye-Youn Lee as Violetta in ‘La traviata’

Opera North's Coronation of Poppea: a premium-rate sex-line of an opera

Opera

Virtue, hide thyself! The Coronation of Poppea opens with a warning and closes with a love duet for a concubine and a psychopath, their union celebrated in sinuous melismas over a blameless passacaglia. First performed in 1643, Monteverdi’s final opera… Read more

Photo: ENO/Robert Workman

ENO’s The Girl of the Golden West is irresistibly seductive

Opera

Puccini’s La fanciulla del West is, one suspects, one of those works that modern audiences struggle to keep a straight face through. The hero, for a start, decides to call himself Dick Johnson. The piece’s Wild West trappings, long since… Read more

Alice Coote and Sarah Tynan in ‘Xerxes’ at ENO

Royal Opera's Rigoletto: your disbelief may wobble but your excitement won't

Opera

One of the greatest tests of how an opera house is functioning is the quality of its revivals. Both the Royal Opera and the English National Opera score highly in that respect. You can go to the Met, to Munich,… Read more

Quiet nobility: David Kempster as William Tell

Robo-Tell hits Welsh National Opera

Opera

Is there a fundamental, insuperable problem with staging Rossini’s Guillaume Tell on a budget, without the resources to conjure up the sense of scale that was part of grand opéra’s appeal and raison d’être? Take away the special effects, whip… Read more

Eloquent: Allan Clayton as Cassio in Otello

Is Anna Nicole’s absurd life worth our while? Not as much as Otello’s

Opera

So how did London’s two big opera companies launch their new seasons last week? Not perhaps in the way you might expect. Decked with pink balloons and the acrid smell of popcorn, the Royal Opera House waved the garish contemporary… Read more

Lucia di Lammermoor, Winslow Hall Photo: Richard Hubert Smith

Michael Tanner: Why I prefer Donizetti to Strauss

Opera

Three operas this week, each of them named after its (anti-)heroine: one of the heroines (the most sympathetic) murders her husband, one of them spends her time successfully plotting the deaths of her mother and stepfather, one insists on the… Read more

Mariinsky's Les Troyens

Mariinsky’s Les Troyens — a bad night for Berlioz and Edinburgh

Opera

I wonder whether grand opéra really takes war as seriously as this year’s Edinburgh Festival wanted it to. These vast works, written to exploit and reflect the power, resources and tastes of mid-19th-century Paris, tended to favour history and its… Read more

The Immortal Hour

The small rewards of small-scale opera

Opera

Perhaps I should come clean straightaway and admit that, despite the fact that OperaUpClose is about to celebrate its fifth birthday, I’d never been to see one of its shows before last week. This has not been a conscious decision;… Read more

Composer Giacomo Puccini; scenes from performances of Tosca in 1956 and 2010 Photo: Getty

In defence of Puccini

Opera

During my opera-going lifetime the most sensational change in the repertoire has, of course, been the immense expansion of the baroque repertoire, with Monteverdi, Rameau and above all Handel being not only revived but also seen now as mainstays in… Read more

Charlotte Salomen

Strauss and Hofmannsthal deserve better from the Salzburg Festival

Opera

The Salzburg Festival’s reputation might largely be one of cultural conservatism, but it made an impressive commitment to new works when it announced in 2011 that it had commissioned four operas, to be unveiled at the rate of one a… Read more

Anja Harteros (Leonora) and Vitalij Kowaljow (Marchese di Calatrava) in‘La forza del destino’

Jonas Kaufmann's illness, a muddled production – nothing can stop Bavarian State Opera's La forza del destino

Opera

Rather than brave the boos and the first reprise of Frank Castorf’s half-hearted Ring at Bayreuth, I decided to pay a visit to Munich and catch the last two days of its annual opera festival. Less of a festival, as… Read more

Theater Freiburg present Tannhauser1

In Norwich, a director is caught trying to murder Wagner’s Tannhäuser

Opera

Seventeen years ago the Norwegian National Opera staged two cycles of the Ring in Norwich’s Theatre Royal, performances that have remained vividly in the minds of anyone who saw them. Now Theater Freiburg has visited Norwich with two performances each… Read more

La Traviata, Glyndebourne

I can’t see the point of Glyndebourne’s La traviata

Opera

One of the highlights of last year’s Glyndebourne Festival was the revival of Richard Jones’s Falstaff, spruced up and invigorated by Mark Elder’s conducting of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and a beautifully balanced cast. Elder is also… Read more

OPERA---Barbara-Bargnesi-&-Daisy-Brown-in-Orfeo-Ed-Euridice-at-Buxton-Festival

Buxton Festival sticks its neck out with two rarities by Dvorak and Gluck

Opera

Dvorak’s The Jacobin and Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, the two operas that opened this year’s Buxton Festival, are both relative rarities today, but their creators’ fortunes tell an interesting story. Dvorak’s operas — or at least Rusalka — joined the… Read more

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Royal Opera's Maria Stuarda: pathos and nobility from Joyce DiDonato, lazy nonsense from the directors

Opera

London is lucky to have heard Joyce DiDonato at the height of her powers in two consecutive seasons. The American mezzo has arguably done less well out of the arrangement, however, finding herself at the centre of two disappointing new… Read more

Mats Almgren as Hagen, Eric Greene as Gunther and Orla Boylan as Gutrune Photo: Clive Barda

Opera North's Götterdämerung is astounding (nearly)

Opera

It seems a very short time since I interviewed Richard Farnes about Opera North’s planned Ring cycle, the dramas to be done one a year, semi-staged in an idiosyncratic way. In fact, it is four years, and now the complete… Read more

Barbie doll: Kristine Opolais as Manon

Manon Lescaut: Puccini’s Anna Nicole?

Opera

This season has already seen Manon Lescaut appear in several different operatic guises across the UK, but it was Covent Garden’s new production of Puccini’s version (its first staging of it in three decades) that was the hottest ticket of… Read more

Clive Bayley in his guise as knight-errant

Tilting at metronomes: Massenet's Don Quichotte opens at Grange Park Opera

Opera

To suggest that the ageing Jules Massenet identified himself with the title character of his Don Quichotte is nothing new — and late works such as this by definition encourage biographical interpretations. One of the main liberties of the opera,… Read more

The busyness of it all is tiring: it feels like not just one West End musical, but several crammed together on to the same stage

Terry Gilliam turns to eye-watering excess for his staging of Berlioz’s Benvenuto Cellini

Opera

Operas about artists are not rare. However — perhaps for obvious reasons — those artists tend to be musicians, singers, or at least performers, able to persuade and cajole both us in the audience and the other characters on stage… Read more

DIALOGUES DES CARMELITES - Royal Opera, Main Stage, 2014

Dialogues des Carmélites brings out the best in Poulenc – and the Royal Opera House

Opera

Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites is an audacious work, much more so than many others that advertise their audacity. It deals with Love and Death, the central topics of opera, but the love is that of God; and death, rather than… Read more

Towering but vulnerable presence: John Tomlinson as Moses

WNO's production of Schoenberg's Moses und Aron is an overwhelming experience – but make sure you close your eyes

Opera

On paper, Moses und Aron might seem intractable and abstract: a 12-tone score setting a libretto that meditates on God, faith, the essential inadequacy of language to express the ineffable, and a great deal more. Put it in the theatre,… Read more

Octavian (Tara Erraught), Baron Ochs (Lars Woldt) and the Marschallin (Kate Royal)

A Rosenkavalier without a heart ain’t much of a Rosenkavalier

Opera

In all its minute details, Der Rosenkavalier is rooted in a painstakingly stylised version of Rococo Vienna that, paradoxically, is further fixed in a web of cannily juxtaposed anachronisms. Upset their balance and you risk upsetting the balance of the… Read more

Beguiling musicality: Sébastien Guèze as Rodolfo and Gabriela Istoc as Mimì in Opera North’s ‘La Bohème’

Two Mimi-Rodolfos at Opera North who go from nought to frisky very believably

Opera

Purists might have winced at Opera North’s advertisement for its latest revival of La Bohème. ‘If you see one musical this year,’ it said, ‘see this opera.’ Such rhetoric might invite unhelpful discussion of the relative merits of each genre,… Read more